Judex Okoro, Calabar
The battle for the northern Cross River senatorial seat at the National Assembly has continued to gather steam with 15 aspirants declaring their interest to contest the snap by-election.
The seat has been vacant since the death of PDP Senator Rose Oko at a London hospital after a protracted illness.
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, INEC cancelled all elections, with political parties suspending their state congresses across the country.
Daily Sun investigations, however, reveals that in spite of the lockdown, politicians in Cross River have discretely intensified campaigning and manoeuvring in readiness for their party primaries.
Checks further reveal that political heavyweights have started aligning and re-aligning in order to clinch the coveted senatorial ticket for their parties.
Prominent politicians who have indicated an interest so far include the Minister of State for Power, Chief Goddy Jeddy Agba, an APC chieftain and former governorship aspirant in PDP, Prof Zana Agbagu, APC, and incumbent Vice-Chancellor of University of Calabar, Mr Jude Ngaji, former PDP state organising secretary, Deputy Chief of Staff and Chief of Staff during Sen Liyel Imoke Administration, and House of Representatives candidate for Yala/Ogoja federal constituency in 2019 and Mr Wably Iyam, a former APC northern senatorial candidate in 2019 election.
Others are Dr Julius Opkutu, former commissioner, senatorial candidate and university don, Mrs Marthina Odom, a former woman leader and a commissioner in revenue mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Mrs Theresa Ezama, former woman leader, and Mrs Stella Odey, incumbent commissioner for local government
Jostling for coveted seat include Dr Steven Odey, incumbent Chairman State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB, Rt Hon. Larry Odey, former Speaker Cross River House of Assembly and governorship candidate, Hon Mrs Regina Anyogo I and Hon Mrs Cynthia Nkasi II, incumbent lawmakers representing Yala state constituencies.
Speaking on the development in Calabar on Tuesday, a pro-democracy group, the Northern Coalition for Good Governance (NCFGG) insisted that the vacant seat must be zoned back to Yala local government area where the late senator comes from for equity and justice.
The coordinator of NCFGG, Agba Agba, said it behoves on all the political parties to zero their choice of candidates to Yala as it is morale for the people to conclude their tenure, adding that besides the Minister of State for Power, Mr GoddyJeddy Agba, and Prof Zana Agbagu, all other aspirants are from Yala local government area, an indication that they (Yala) have qualified politicians to step into the shoes of their late sister.
He said: “We are appealing to all parties to please do the needful by picking all the aspirants from the same Yala to complete the remaining three years and then it goes to another local government that has not tasted it before.
“Such an arrangement would reduce tension and acrimony. I do know that some people would kick, but such would reduce tensions and acrimony within our senatorial zone.”
Agba expressed worry at the plethora of aspirants that have kicked off consultation even as some of them are just fronting for their political masters, adding that only about four of the aspirants including Minister Goddy Agba, Prof Zana Agbagu, Mr Jude Ngaji and Dr Steven Odey have so far met their criteria to run for the red chamber office.
According to the group, the race is not an all-comers-affairs and maintained that it would work with the political parties to produce an acceptable candidate for the north this time.